Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has called for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
Sanchez, whose new government was sworn in earlier this month, proposed an international peace conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during talks with Netanyahu on Thursday.
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The Socialist leader also met Israeli President Isaac Herzog and was set for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank later on Thursday before travelling on to Egypt.
“Today, more than ever, we need to bring back a serious and credible prospect for peace,” Sanchez said after talks with Netanyahu. “Without a political settlement, we are bound to run again into a never-ending cycle of violence.”
While Sanchez stressed that he backed Israel’s right to defend itself following the “atrocities” carried out by Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs Gaza, on October 7, he said the number of Palestinians killed in Israel’s military response “is truly unbearable”.
Around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed when Hamas fighters from Gaza attacked southern Israel, according to Israeli authorities, and around 240 others were taken as captives to Gaza.
Since the attack, Israel has bombarded Gaza in an air and ground assault and severely restricted supplies of water, food and fuel to the 2.3 million residents of the territory. More than 14,500 people, including more than 6,000 children, have been killed in the Israeli assault on Gaza, according to Palestinian authorities.
The last US-brokered round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014 and the prospects of a revival appear to have dimmed amid the continuing Israel-Hamas war.
Sanchez said he and unspecified colleagues had proposed holding an international peace conference with the parties as soon as possible. He said the European Union, Arab League and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation had all endorsed the idea.
“It is in Israel’s interest to work for peace, and today, peace means the establishment of a viable Palestinian state that includes the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, according to the UN resolutions,” he said.
United States officials have said the time is not right to try to resume peace talks given the protracted intransigence of both sides.
Sanchez attended the meetings alongside his Belgian counterpart, Alexander De Croo. Their two countries hold the current and upcoming rotating presidencies of the Council of the European Union, respectively.
Last week, Sanchez said a Union for the Mediterranean summit in Barcelona on November 27-28 would be an “ideal place” to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian dialogue as the two sides would “sit on an equal footing” there.
Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), which governs limited parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, are members of the Mediterranean grouping along with neighbours Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Syria.
UK’s Cameron meets Netanyahu
In 1991, Madrid hosted a multilateral peace conference aimed at resolving the conflict through negotiations based on a “land for peace” formula, eventually leading to the 1993 Oslo interim accords that set up the PA.
But a series of follow-up negotiations aimed at creating a Palestinian state in territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war foundered on intractable differences over borders, Palestinian refugees, Israel’s steady expansion of settlements on occupied land, and the status of Jerusalem.
As he was sworn in for a new term this month, Sanchez said his foreign policy priority would be to “work in Europe and in Spain to recognise the Palestinian state”.
Several smaller European nations such as Sweden and Malta have recognised Palestine, but so far no major EU member has taken this step.
Sanchez governs in a minority coalition with hard-left formation Sumar. In October, Israel’s embassy to Spain accused some of Sanchez’s ministers of aligning themselves with Hamas after a hard-left cabinet minister called Israel’s military offensive in Gaza “a genocide”.
British Foreign Secretary David Cameron also met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Thursday after visiting the south of the country. He said the agreed four-day truce was an opportunity to get some of the Israeli captives out of Gaza and that he hoped “everyone who is responsible and behind this agreement can make it happen”.
“There’s no hope for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, between Israel and the Arab states, if we don’t eradicate this murderous movement that threatens the future of all of us,” Cameron said, referring to Hamas.